Hospitals in New York now have up to three months of personal protective equipment (PPE) on hand at all times going forward, according to Governor Andrew Cuomo, who attributed the severity of the situation in the northeast to travelers from Europe.
During a Sunday briefing, Cuomo said that while the United States was focusing on the coronavirus threat from China, they should have been looking to Europe and could have avoided overloading the hospital system. The overarching message of today’s appearance was that the health system in the United States did not act fast enough.
“We were looking at China, and the travel ban on China might have been helpful, but the horse was already out of the barn in China. The virus had left,” Cuomo said. “Meanwhile we have European travelers coming here and they’re bringing the virus which is now a different strain of the virus to the East Coast… The timing of our travel alerts should have been earlier.”
Cuomo said that New York may have been struck by a different strain of coronavirus than other parts of the country or the world in that it was not a deadlier form, but a more virulent form. As he conceded that it is not his area of expertise, he pointed at the density and the fact that over 180,000 people from Italy had passed through New York and New Jersey airports unabated in February, citing data from the Centers for Disease Control.
Healthcare capacity in the state is dependent on the 176 private hospitals which don’t include the 12 in NYC Health and Hospitals or four others on Long Island. Organizing the hospitals to operate as one system in the early days of the pandemic was a challenge widely discussed by the Cuomo administration.
“It was a lot to do on the fly and we need to institutionalize these lessons… This was just a situation that nobody anticipated, it happened all across the country,” Cuomo said. “We’re going to put in a state requirement now that every hospital needs to have a 90-day supply — their own stockpile — of all the equipment they could need at the rate of usage that we saw with this COVID virus.”
This circumvents the “mad scramble” of supply chain breakdowns that took place from different states and private parties buying up PPE, according to Cuomo, which led to prices being driven up — about $2 billion has been spent on medical supplies by the state of New York in 2020 alone.
But capitalistic problems require capitalistic solutions, in the governor’s eyes.
The seven-state coalition will buy up to $5 billion of PPE, ventilators and medical equipment to increase their “market power” and more competitive on the international marketplace.
“I believe it will save the taxpayer’s money. I also believe it’ll actually help us get the equipment because we have trouble still just buying the equipment,” Cuomo said. “These vendors on the other side, they’re dealing with countries, they’re dealing with the federal government, why should they do business with one state when they can do business with an entire country.”
The consortium of states will organize which vendors are trusted to buy from and will put states in the northeast at an advantage to turn to supply chains that are not in China, Cuomo said.